One recent night before hitting the sack, Doug Shackelford received an urgent email. University of North Carolina Chancellor Carol Folt and Provost James Dean asked him to show up in their offices the next morning.
Shackelford, a long-time professor at the university’s Kenan-Flagler Business School who was under serious consideration for the school’s deanship, didn’t know what to expect. He had been through several interviews for the job. This could have been yet another test, a gentle turn down, or a welcoming party.
“I honestly didn’t know if it was yea or nay,” says Shackelford. As soon as he walked through the door, he heard either Folt or Dean say, “The job is yours.” Recalls Shackelford, “They both shook my hand, and we started talking about what it all meant.”
Today (Jan. 22), the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill made it official, announcing that Shackelford will be recommended as the next dean to the Board of Trustees at their meeting this week, with an effective date of Feb. 1, 2014. He effectively succeeds Provost Dean, who served as B-school dean from 2008 until he became provost July 1, 2013. John P. Evans has been serving as interim leader of Kenan-Flagler since then.
‘I FEEL A LOT LIKE I DID BEFORE A BIG GAME’
Shackelford, who played a lot of sports as a young student, says he feels a lot like he did before a big game. “I feel a little nervous. I’m trying to figure out what I’m going to do the first day and the first month, but I am mostly excited.”
As a candidate for the job, he had to overcome the potentially difficult situation of explaining to the former dean of the business school what he would do as his successor. “Jim was very gracious,” recalls Shackelford. “He asked me what I would do and prefaced it by saying it is completely okay and maybe even advisable to say there are things I put into place that you want to dismantle. We knew each other so long enough and go back so far that that I knew it wasn’t just a casual remark.”
Still, it had to cause some unease to tell your former boss what you might change about the way he ran the place. “In my heart of hearts,” says Shackelford, “I don’t feel we need to do a lot of dismantling around here. We’ve done the right things. We’ve done a lot of growing and expanding and you spend a lot on investments and you can get stretched thin. Now is the time to take assessments (on programs and projects) and to double down on some bets and pull back on others that aren’t paying off as well. We can make those decisions as a faculty. the school is in a very healthy stage right now.”
A BIG BET ON AN ONLINE MBA PROGRAM
One major task is inevitable: fundraising. The school is expected to officially launch a major capital campaign in January of next year. “I want to get the school on a stronger financial base,” says Shackelford. “I went on a lot of calls with Dean Steve Jones (predecessor of Jim Dean) and started my own Tax Center here in 2001 and had to raise money to get that going. It has never been front and center, but I know a lot of our major donors. I have been to a lot of those dinners, and it’s not something I feel uncomfortable about.”
He was selected after an international search and the work of a search committee led by Susan King, dean of the UNC School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Kenneth Kring of Korn/Ferry International helped assist in the search.
One factor in his selection, no doubt, was his stewardship as the academic head of the school’s online MBA program, MBA@UNC. He took on the challenge in 2010, even though his initial reaction to the idea of an online degree at UNC was not completely positive. “Oh my God,” I thought, “the budget situation must be desperate. I told the dean (James W. Dean Jr.) that this is such a big bet that either he will be a hero for doing it or burned in effigy from a tree on campus if it fails.”
As it turns out, the online initiative has been a big success. Dean won promotion to Provost, and now Shackelford has won the deanship. At the time, however, some worried that it would tarnish the school’s reputation as one of the best public universities in the world. Four years ago, the highest ranked online MBA program was at Indiana University’s Kelley School. Since UNC came into the market, many other players have entered, including Carnegie Mellon.